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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Is Happiness Becoming an Industry? No Government Interference Please!

A little homespun philosophy this week.

There seem to be a number of relatively new concepts currently going the rounds and some of them are becoming almost an industry.  For example Mindfulness is gaining adherents as is Thought Leadership and the indications are that there is a move towards self-examination, even introspection.

However, the one that has sparked my interest is that of Happiness which for fairly obvious reasons is an objective worth the pursuit.

I do have some concern about it however, that when Governments start to latch on to a fashionable idea they can latch on with a heavy hand (if that isn’t a very mixed metaphor) and drain all the life out if it.

How on earth can Government affect or even try to affect the happiness of the people?  Government is there to legislate and as the majority of legislation is there to prevent us from doing something (if you don’t believe me just check it out) then hoping to bring happiness to us is a fallacy.

Please just get the economy right and accept that is the best you can achieve.

Happiness is a feeling; it is not measurable as some academics and psychologists would have us believe. Indeed it is probably an absolute in the same way as “unique” in that we are either happy or not.

It is not the same as contentment, enjoyment or pleasure; all of those can contribute to our happiness but they are not happiness in themselves.

It is an intensely personal and transient feeling.  What makes each of us happy does not necessarily do so for anyone else.  It is transient because external influences can affect us both positively and negatively and often quickly.

Contributors to personal happiness are many and varied and again are appropriate to different interpretations.  For example, the acquisition of a new possession, a walk in the park, good friends and family relationships, animals, good conversation, spirituality, meditation, the list is endless.

It is worth examining how each of us achieves happiness.  Is it through one of the situations above or do you have something in your life that really makes you happy to the exclusion of everything else?

I heard a piece on the radio recently when a Buddhist monk was interviewed having been described as “the happiest man in the world”.  Who made this decision wasn’t mentioned except that it appeared that someone had managed to evolve a technique that they claimed could measure happiness.

Neuroscience would have it that finding which parts of the brain are stimulated positively and monitoring those parts would enable a measurement of happiness to be defined. 

I am extremely sceptical about this possibility.  Because of the transient nature of happiness it would seem very unlikely that it would occur during a brain scan.  It’s a laudable attempt but please, leave us to be happy without the burden of scientific analysis.

Business leaders would always claim that they “have a happy workforce”.  Do they mean contented (apathetic) or perhaps the people exhibit a positive attitude?

Recent statistics would lead us to believe that productivity in UK industry is the lowest in Europe, being defined as the value produced per hour of work.

There must be a correlation; I would have thought that if the workforce is happy then there should be a high level of productivity or am I being naïve?

Perhaps the answer is to implant a culture into the business which encourages people, which gives then the freedom to act positively, that doesn’t weight them down with unnecessary bureaucracy and with a leadership that show concern for their wellbeing.

Those are the sort of criteria that will lead to a happy workforce.

In my case it would be a comfortable chair, the dog asleep on my lap, listing to great music (me not the dog) and getting outside of a large bowl of ice cream (again, me not the dog)

Like I said, it’s intensely personal and very transient but it’s great while it lasts.


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